Through the snow

I knew I would have to get up early to shovel.  Weather reports yesterday had said to expect snow squalls and up to 15 cm accumulation.  Really, though, that means nothing to me.  John-Mark manages the snow removal department in our family.  If it wasn’t for the fact that he’s in Ghana for two weeks on a mission trip, I would just anticipate a prettier view out my kitchen window.

Today I’ve learned that up to 15 cm  is snow above your knees when you open your door to the world outside.  Up to 15 cm means visible shock as you process what it would take to physically move the snow to hit asphalt.  Up to 15 cm means hoping you can remember where the shovel is and how to run the snow blower on your own.  Up to 15 cm also means a whoop from the kids as they grab their snow gear and run outside ahead of you.  Apparently up to 15 cm forecast turned into 30-40 cm reality.

It was lonely at dawn, out on my driveway.  The road, normally busy, was still asleep.  After I figured out it needed to be plugged in to work, our snow blower broke the silence with a pathetic whirr.  The thing is made out of tin cans and cannot even get through the first layer without high-pitched whining.

I tried to remember John-Mark’s instructions to me.  Think of the driveway as a rib cage.  Make the spine down the middle and then extend the ribs out to one side and then the other.  One rib at a time.  That’s right.

I pushed and shoved and heaved our little snowblower to make a squiggly spine and yelled at my daughter to grab a shovel. We’re gonna be here a while.

Neighbours started showing up, dotting the road.  I don’t know my neighbours well. I’ve always blamed the traffic for that.  But there’s something about a shared burden that can draw a friendly wave from four doors down, or a shrug from across the way.  Hands cupped to yell, “Can you believe this?!” from a person whose name you don’t know.

As more and more folks made their way out of hibernation, the street scene became jovial.  We laughed between grunts as we worked and somehow this was becoming fun.  There was victorious “right on!” when someone found the sidewalk.

An hour or so of shoveling and whirring, people retreated indoors.   A few doors down, across the way, a truck pulled up to the driveway.  I’d never met those neighbours and it looked like I wouldn’t today.  A maintenance service, three men pulled out two massive snowblowers and a shovel.  Within 10 minutes, the driveway was finished and they were gone.  Those of us who remained looked a little dejected.

I started to think, I could finish this later, right?  I could take a break.  I could race my car through the chunk at the end if I had to get out?  Vehicle ramming was the precisely the way we dealt with snow in our first year of marriage. I could relive the good old days when we couldn’t afford a shovel.

My next door neighbour was the last to arrive on the scene.  He pulled out his beast of a snowblower, twice the size of mine.  He walked right over. Before even starting his driveway, he finished mine.  I kept yelling, Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! at him over the roar of his snow blower’s engine.  He eventually ignored me.

Another neighbour said we’re expecting 15 cm of snow tonight again.  I now know exactly what to expect.

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